Connected living is positively impacting the way we understand health, practice healthcare, and advance population health using data we are now able to collect using a wide range of sensors connected to groundbreaking applications.

Individuals can monitor their own vital signs through wearables, health care providers are able to monitor patients at home with increasingly sensitive systems enabling telemedicine and more, and cities are able to manage all the elements that add up to healthier living community-wide.

We are only now at the threshold of cities using IoT-based solutions to understand where health risks reside in cities, whether air pollution, water contamination, airborne illnesses, food safety regulations and compliance, air temperature and humidity in public spaces and public housing, and more. The natural benefits are promising: reduce the costs of care by getting out in front of public health risks, reduce the costs of operations required to monitor and manage the environment, all while improving the quality and longevity of life.

The IoT is beginning to make a substantial impact is in advancing population health management. As wearables and sensors become a bigger part of the way in which we track our own health and the health of many, citizens are becoming more comfortable with the regular monitoring of weight, heart rate, blood pressure and other vitals and supportive of the notion that public agencies will, in tandem, monitor the very air they are breathing, and water they are drinking.

The trend analysis of this everyday data and the ability to act on this data is changing the very nature of the approach to population health, and the economics.

Smart city visionaries are now looking at the investment in physical and digital infrastructure as a strategy, given the existing capabilities to measure everything – from sewer to sky.

With technology, cities and their utility and public-sector partners can now understand and anticipate things that affect human health, in large urban areas, or in communities within those areas or surrounding those areas. With smaller devices and smarter analytics, and with more practical and affordable networks, like LoRaWAN (Low Power Radio Wide Area Networks) they’re improving upon the systems that have been testing urban conditions for years.

The art of smart cities has made headway with the most obvious applications: cost savings and security improvements through controlled LED lighting, traffic routing improvements, security monitoring and management, and more.

As we enter a deeper and broader era of smart cities, we are seeing more and more applications for population health.

At the Senseable City Lab at MIT, for example, researchers found through their “Underworlds” project opportunities to analyze sewage for signs of diseases and poor health.

“You can tell a lot about a person by sampling their gut. And as this data is flushed down the toilet, there’s a vast reservoir of information on human health and behavior that goes with it,” Project Manager Newsha Ghaeli of the Senseable City Lab at MIT said at a conference.

Testing can also uncover things like markers for diabetes and obesity, which are major public health issues in many U.S. cities. Tracking those factors could help in evaluating government policies, like New York City’s recently passed law restricting the size of sugary drinks, Ghaeli said.

With the price reduction of sensors and the rapid evolution of software and security measures addressing concerns that connected cities can be hacked, making the business case for rolling out population health solutions is become a lot easier. Innovators in public health who are responsible for ensuring regulations and guidelines are being followed, for example in the food safety area, are rolling out sensors connected to networks that can determine if the coolers on food trucks are at the right, safe temperature.

This application alone can save the city (and taxpayers) millions by automating the compliance of regulations; for example, if a cooler is out of the policy bounds set, an alert can be sent to the owner of that food truck asking them to fix the issue.

At the same time, a health department compliance officer can track anomalies and use a connected system to more cost-efficiently monitor entire fleets of food trucks with less in-person visits and “paperwork.”

At Chenoa, we’ve been pioneering in developing Monitoring, Detection and Intervention solutions, blending data to create meaningful and actionable systems that can extend to any number of qualified “subscribers” to the data, and securely so.

As an industry, community and collection of technologists and businesses committed to improving life, we can very effectively tackle everything from Legionnaire’s disease by monitoring HVAC units and other systems in hotels and public buildings, to supporting epidemiologists in predicting, preventing and managing flu epidemics.

We can sample the air – the water – temperature – humidity – and correlate data with actual patient outcomes through cooperative programs with hospitals.

The applications for improving public and population health using sensor is smart cities makes those cities not only healthier – but safer – and ultimately less expensive to operate. These opportunities are worth pursuing together, as the need for cooperation, integration and interoperability will be key to optimizing small then larger investments in the future.

– Raj Devi